Germany's Angela Merkel To Meet With Trump
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
President Donald Trump meets with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Washington, D.C., today. It's their first face-to-face meeting since Trump took office, though they've been talking about each other for a while now. Under Merkel's leadership, Germany has allowed in more than a million refugees and migrants in recent years, which Trump denounced during his presidential campaign.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The German people are going to end up overthrowing this woman. I don't know what the hell she's thinking. But they have millions of people pouring into Germany. And now they're not stopping them. Now, I guess, they're going to have to stop them because the German people aren't going to put up.
MARTIN: Angela Merkel made a statement of her own after Donald Trump was elected, which is the starting point for our conversation with Tanit Koch. She's the editor of the German publication Bild.
Thanks so much for being with us, Tanit.
TANIT KOCH: Thanks for having me, Rachel.
MARTIN: So let's talk about that statement Angela Merkel issued after the U.S. election. She said in this, she hoped to cooperate with the next U.S. president on shared values, which she articulated as being things like freedom, respect for law, and the dignity of man. Is she satisfied at this point that President Trump is upholding those values, do you think?
KOCH: I'm not sure she is. But I think that she wants to put a lot of rhetoric, especially sort of the criticism by Donald Trump about her in the past - she really wants to put that aside and just focus on future relationships with the United States.
MARTIN: Has she been doing anything in particular to prepare for this meeting?
KOCH: Oh, of course. She sort of goes about preparing herself on any issues scientifically. She's a physicist, and that's how she works. Whenever she met Barack Obama, they actually had a competition about who arrived better prepared. I don't think she'll have that competition with Donald Trump (laughter).
But I know that she's watched video footage. She's had her staff talk to Jared Kushner. She's talked to Justin Trudeau about how his meeting with Trump went. And I even heard she read a Playboy interview that Donald Trump gave a couple of years ago to get to know him before meeting him.
MARTIN: Wow, she is committed to her research. (Laughter) That is an odd image thinking about Angela Merkel reading Playboy.
MARTIN: What is she looking for out of this meeting? You say she wants a clean slate; she wants to start over. Is she likely to bring up specifics?
KOCH: If you look at her entourage, you'll see that there are a lot of CEOs of very important German companies, such Siemens, such as BMW and Schaeffler. I think she wants to make a point that the companies have created thousands of jobs in the United States and that an import tax, which we are threatened with basically, or Europe is threatened with, will end up in a trade war.
So the English word she puts a lot of emphasis on right now is the word reciprocity. So if there's an import tax coming from the U.S., then the United States will probably have to face something similar from Europe.
MARTIN: I remember after the election, Der Spiegel magazine, a newsmagazine in Germany, had on its cover this striking image. It was a meteor heading - racing on fire towards Earth. And Donald Trump's face was on the meteor, his mouth gaping open like he was about to consume the world. Has that perception changed? I mean, what - when you talk to Germans around the country, do they have thoughts about Donald Trump?
KOCH: I don't think all Germans see Donald Trump as the end of the Western world, which sort of was depicted on that cover. What we know from the polls - as much as you can trust them nowadays - is that you have 80 to 90 percent of Germans saying that they pretty much abhor what he's doing.
But I think people do understand that we need to remain allies because without a strong and stable United States, we are going to be threatened, of course, by Russian and other countries, which don't have the scruples the American democracy usually has.
MARTIN: What do Germans make of the fact that Donald Trump has tried to cultivate closer ties with Russia and Vladimir Putin in particular?
KOCH: It's worrying, seeing that Angela Merkel is the one who's sort of most strict and most stern about upholding sanctions against Russia. We need close ties to the U.S. to keep that up and have a balancing power against Russia. And so I think that, actually, Donald Trump can and wants to learn about Putin. And there's hardly any Western leader who's met Putin so often as Angela Merkel. And she actually speaks Russian, so I think she gets Putin rather well. And I think Donald Trump can profit from that.
MARTIN: Tanit Koch is the editor of Bild newsmagazine in Germany.
Thank you so much for talking with us.
KOCH: Thanks, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.